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KathyF

One day the Superbowl was on. GWTW was playing opposite. Every time I went upstairs I found my husband quickly switching the channel back to the Superbowl. Finally, he asked "when does Melly die?"

I love GWTW, though it's not my favorite movie by a long shot. It does portray a slice of the South that's actually quite humorous now. Racism, yes, but racism was a fact of life in the 1930s when the movie was made. That's like saying the British and French were cruel for chopping off heads. Yes, they were, but that's how life was back then. Do we refuse to read history because of it?

One day our progeny will wonder how we tolerated the standards we have today.

KathyF

I would also say, show me a movie made in the 30s that portrays races other than white that wouldn't be considered racist by our standards. Do you propose to lock them all away in a vault?

carla

The trouble is Gone With the Wind is just so damn good a movie, and all this intellectualizing is hard to do in a darkened theater with a bag of popcorn in one hand and your date's hand in the other.

And there Dear Lance..is the rub.

GWTW is a snapshot of a film. I love watching it right around the same time as To Kill A Mockingbird (which is a superior film, in my view) with my kids..because it evokes such interesting discussion here.

I've recently just watched The Color Purple with my fifteen year old boy, too. Our little community is very ethnically diverse..but its Hispanic, Asian, Indian and ethno-European Americans by and large. The struggles of African Americans are different..and much more profound in many ways.

These films are a great jumping off point to discuss racism and discrimination.

Roxanne

When I lived in Japan, several friends and relatives had me tracking down videos and DVDs of Disney's Song of the South, because it was available there and not in the US. I find it odd that Disney no longer distributes it here as I don't think it's nearly as visceral as other movies mentioned in this post and thread.

mcnairk

Well, I must admit, you've piqued my interest. I've tried to watch that film about 10 different times, and I always get bored, or disgusted, or just plain annoyed and have never made it through. I couldn't tell you the plot if my life depended on it (I think something burns at some point or another, no?). Maybe it's having watched Leigh with Olivier in some fabulous romantic films and knowing that she could barely keep her lunch down due to Gable's halitosis that kills the film for me, but it has just always riled me.

But I *might* have to force myself through it, with your thoughts in mind.

Shakespeare's Sister

Roxanne beat me to part of my comment.

The other part is that I've never seen GWTW, because it doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy, even if it weren't racist. I have, however, always heard about its racism.

On the other hand, I saw Breakfast at Tiffany's for the first time not so long ago, and was aghast at Mickey Rooney's portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi. Of all the things I've heard about BAT, I'd never heard that it was shockingly racist. I asked a few other people about it who hadn't seen it, and they'd never heard that, either. And some people - liberals all - who had seen it had to be reminded what was racist about it. Odd, that.

Tom W.

I hate it because it's a rather poor movie - over-long, poorly-acted and except for a few long tracking shots considered classics, rather dull visually. Plus the racism.

Ginger Mayerson

Hi Lance. This is my first comment here. How exciting.

GWTW is one weird, but very enjoyable film and book. I think it's how the romantic past some of the South would like to believe it had. But, anyway, here are my nitpicks:

Scarlett shoots the soldier. Melly does drag herself and Charles's (her dead brother and Scarlett's dead husband's) saber with her to fight, and probably die, but Scarlett has the gun and pulls the trigger.

No Civil War battles? I'm sure there was some defense of Atlanta before General Sherman's army burned it.

Rhett... oy, I can't remember every word of his speech to Scarlett after he drives the wagon with Melly, the baby, and Prissy out of the burning city, but it had a lot to do with being a Southerner and fighting with his people, even if it was a lost cause. I'd have to see that scene again to totally explain it, but I think the message was about sacrifice and honor. Which is something Scarlett does when she stays with Melly and, with Rhett's help, gets them all out of Atlanta. If they were total rats, Scarlett and Rhett would have just run for it. But no one in GWTW is believable as a person, they're all romantic ideas dressed up as people.

I think if nothing else, GWTW is a tribute to female strength in the face of adversity, because if not for Scarlett staying with Melly as Sherman's troops advanced, and then getting Rhett to help them escape, it would be a much shorter story. And then she keeps her little band going and surviving reconstruction, which was no joke. Yes, she's a jerk and a bitch most of the time, but they all live because of her. Melly might be physically weak, but she's no wimp in all this either. She supports Scarlett however she can because she knows who saved her once and is keeping them going. She's also the only one who can get through Rhett's grief after Bonnie dies. No mean feat that.

GWTW has great women, maybe even heroic women worthy of an opera, and that's what makes it enjoyable for me.

(And, yes, I know the African Americans are portrayed as children and idiots, and that sucks. But it was 1939 and that kind of portrayal didn't start to seriously change until the 60s and, y'know, we still don't live in a perfect world. I also think Birth of a Nation, Amos and Andy, and movies where geniuses like Louis Armstrong or Billie Holliday played servants were more racist [and much creepier, too]. And there you have it.)

julia

Actually, Rhett didn't go along at all. He showed up after it all started to tell Scarlett and Melanie that los federales knew about the raid and were waiting for the raiders. Melanie told him where to find them.

Rhett couldn't have been less interested in The Cause. He was in it for the money.

Later, he got in it for Teh Heritage, but only because he discovered that being married to a delusional belle with emotional problems wasn't as fulfilling as he originally thought, so he went off to mourn the rest of his illusions in peace.

Funny, how the great hero of suthren literature (as opposed to southern, some of which was great) is a man who decided to live with his illusions because the life he chose wasn't working out.

Idyllopus

An Atlanta woman I once knew, born a little before 1970, was complaining when wanting to hire an individual to come and care for her children when she returned to the work force. She couldn't find a cheap African-American woman and went on about where had the mammies gone, those black women who sacrificed themselves for the white children. They wanted a career instead.

I'd had no idea beforehand she was racist. No clue until it came time for her to want to hire cheap labor. I was amazed and told what I thought and she said that as a person from the north I didn't understand the South in this way and how the black women loved the white children as their own and would do anything for them (as had been done for her by her caregiver). She gave it as a spiritual truth that I, as a northerner, wasn't going to get, ever. And she was bitter over these black women who the modern world had basically perverted and didn't recognize their true calling.

Butterfly McQueen was from Augusta and in Augusta I heard white people talk her down, for some reason out of all the actors she was the one whose name came up and, oh, they laughed, she didn't know how to act, she was just like what she played. And it was interesting, in light of your remark on the character she played, for embedded in the remark was a sense of "keeping her in her place". And her place was the clown who believed she was something more than she was. They said this was Butterfly McQueen who just happened to get lucky with GWTW, playing a part for which she needed no acting ability.

An atheist, Butterfly McQueen died of a fire in Augusta in 1995. Africanamericans.com notes:

"One Christian neighbor, Mary Harden, was quoted in the Atlanta Constitution shamelessly exploiting Ms. McQueen's suffering: "I believe she made it into heaven. She threw up both her hands as she was coming out of that burning house, and made it in with Jesus."

Which sounds just like Augusta.

I went to see GWTW when I was 18 and walked out. Took over a decade for me to make myself sit and watch the film. Which I don't like. I fail to see how it's a great movie.

The mammy stereotype is a peculiar one. I've wondered at its roots in some subconscious need for a Madonna figure who will efface ego and become simply mother and nothing but, with no desires but to serve as a mother. To the white South. A terrible stereotype that defends slavery (and wage slavery) as some sort of co-operative relationship. The strength of this stereotype in parts of the white South borders on religious devotion, tyrant children ruling the all-giving household mother goddess servant.

GWTW isn't a relic referring to a past way of thinking. It's not just 1860s or depression era 1930s. Things are better than they were but nick the pc crust and some surprising emotion-based beliefs may tumble out which are difficult to reason with as they're not intellectually-based, they're founded in some golden age youth where the African-American mother took care of all one's needs. Pretty much for free! The ultimate example of self-sacrificial love.

Twisted.

harry near indy

the only thing i could watch in gwtw is clark gable's performance. god, what a charmer!

it's like the time i rented terms of endearment. the conflicts between the characters played by debra winger and shirley mclain left me cold, but when jack nicholson was on screen -- god, what a charmer!

you make an interesting point about butterfly mcqueen's character as a descendent of the comic servant from roman comedies. iirc, zero mostel plays a comic servant/slave in a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. btw, i saw the movie years ago and it could've been a lot better.

opposed the black slaves in gwtw with eddie "rochester" anderson. iirc, he was the voice of reason to benny's foolish plans. he and benny decided that rochester wouldn't be a buffoon or act sambo.

and iirc, he had a rough voice because of a childhood injury to his vocal chords.

Exiled in NJ

What part of 'Fiddle dee dee' is it that you don't understand, Lance?

Just joking, but that overlong piece of ripe fruit brings up so many thoughts:

Ever notice how many films Leslie Howard rests his chin on his elbow and does nothing?

I can see Prissy as a comedic type, but usually Hollywood would allow us to have some sympathy for that person; seems here they go out of their way to make the viewer dislike her.

Is Mammy that different from the wise butler figures in a number of films of that time: William Powell's Godfrey, Boyer's impoverished Russian prince in Tovarich, or for that matter, Clarence Muse in the original Heaven Can Wait!~~which is not the original of the Beatty vehicle but one of Lubitsch's best films~~Muse, the black butler, is the servant who has more brains than either father Eugene Pallette or mother Marjorie Main combined.

In Since You Went Away, the storytellers allow Hattie to leave service and go off to work in industry to support the war effort, and she does so long before Claudette Colbert joins the fight.

I complain sometimes that Polanksi compressed the second half of Tess too much, but once Scarlett, Melly and Rhett escape Atlanta, the film becomes more of a forced march. Now when it is shown on Turner, I flick it off before Bonnie falls off the pony.

It's so easy to point fingers at the attitudes of the past, but how many Hollywood films today portray Third World people sympathetically? Only 'Three Kings' did any justice to Iraq?

Campaspe

Oh my goodness. I was wondering why you hadn't commented on that post, Lance. Now I know! Great response, as always. In addition to my party affiliation I am a no-law-means-no-law First Amendment freak due to my father's influence, so I would never argue for putting GWTW in the vault. And I want KathyF to know--there is still a lot for me to love about the movie. It just distresses me that its romantic view of the antebellum South still has so many people by the toenails. As a Southerner it is particularly galling. People bang on about how the Japanese haven't acknowledged this that and the other about WW II ... well, there's an awful lot of folks in Alabama that haven't exactly faced up to what slavery was truly like.

[which brings up an aside to Shakespeare's Sister -- believe me, I noticed, and I was appalled. The movie was made in 1961 and Blake Edwards should have known better. I find the Mickey Rooney character unwatchable, and the cult of Breakfast at Tiffany's baffles me. There are some wonderful moments, but aside from the dreadful Rooney, did you really believe Audrey was ever Lula Mae anybody?]

Couple of things about Rhett. You and Julia got me on the Shantytown sequence; Rhett goes after Ashley and poor schmucky Frank Kennedy, Scarlett's hubby, because he knows they are going into a trap. So the presumable sequence is--he goes to Shantytown and somehow gets Ashley and Doc Meade out of there, and takes them all to Belle Watling's. (Which leads to a genuinely funny moment, when Mrs. Meade is trying to ask her husband what the whorehouse decor was like.) But I believe you may be forgetting a part yourself, where Scarlett and Rhett are in the wagon, looking at the ragtag Confederates retreating from Atlanta. Scarlett tells Rhett that he must be proud that he wasn't fooled into joining them. "I'm not so proud," says Rhett. And after that famous kiss, he's off to join the Army. There's a throwaway line later where you learn that Rhett was decorated for service at the battle of Franklin. He signed on in the most idealistic way possible, after the cause was well and truly lost.

Maybe he knows the cause is worthless, in the same way he comes to know Scarlett is not worth what she doth cost in the keeping. But still pursues both. For me, he's the movie's only true romantic.

Finally, poor Leslie Howard. He was a famous ladies' man in Hollywood and according to no less an authority than Louise Brooks, he had sex appeal by the yard. But it's his drippy turn in GWTW that he's remembered for. He complained that his costume in GWTW made him look like a gay doorman at the Beverly Wilshire, "a fine thing at my age." He was quite dashing in The Scarlet Pimpernel and I also love his Higgins in Pygmalion. He returned to England when the war started and tried to help any way he could. He died a heroic death, shot down by German fighters in 1943 when his plane was returning from Portugal, where he was giving some lectures. Legend has it that he may have been doing some intelligence work for the British.

I have to go offline now, but I'll look forward to checking this thread again.

harry near indy

campaspe, i saw breakfast at tiffany's about 13 years ago, when i was dating a woman who was about 5 foot 4 and about 140 pounds. very curvy. and with dark blonde hair.

totally the opposite of audrey hepburn.

it was an ok movie by my taste. what hurt it was having george peppard playing the male lead. iirc, in the novella, the male narrator is gay. or it seems as if he is.

one thing i don't understand is the cult of audrey hepburn. she's pretty and elegant, agreed. but she's not all that sexy to me.

it seems as if a lot of her fans are gay men and women who aren't that comfortable with their gender. she's skinny and pretty.

give me sophia loren any day of the week and any hour of the day. now there's a WOMAN!

Katherine Hunter

this is fascinating / i am old enough to have seen the original film / we were so excited / it's in COLOUR ! and, oc, i loved the book / much better than Forever Amber, the hot ticket when i was in high school / so thanks for all the commentary both pro and con / it is impossible, however, not to acknowledge that this film is as dated as it is racist / the racism was part of the time as, unfortunately, it still is

Exiled in NJ

A sad comment on history: I typed Leslie Howard into the search box at IMDB. The top answer was Howard Shore. I know I should have put the name in quotes, but my god, has Mr. Howard~~~the name taken by outlaw Jesse James~~~already been relegated to second place?

It seems to me that Hollywood had no idea what to do with his very proper, non-tough guy voice, and so he was relegated to playing noble but weak males. Watch him in Intermezzo also.

My mate, who like me remembers the sensation of Audrey in Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Love in the Afternoon, loves those early films. I did not become a fan until Two for the Road, and find her most memorable role as Maid Marian grown old.

Matt

I watched GWTW a few years ago for the first time, was completely blown away by it. I was prepared for the film's racism, but I seriously wasn't prepared for the marital rape scene in which a drunken Rhett carries a protesting Scarlett up the stairs ("You're not turning me out tonight!"), followed immediately by the shot of Scarlett sighing in post-multiple-orgasmic satisfaction the following morning.

I still love the movie, but damn.

the Heretik

Agree with the Foreign Tart, Kathy F, that GWTW is a product of its time in the same way the later commentary on it The Wind Done Gone is a product of our own and the Great Emancipator Lincoln was a product of his.

The Lincoln lauded by Democrats and Republicans as their own was quite the racist, which begs the question of what absolute lesson we may derive from history. Is everything not relative to ourselves and to our times? Compassion for The Other is a kind and growing timeless thing. Fiddle dee.

Gone With The Wind? What was gone?

Tom

Idyllopus: I had my authentic Northerner-in-the-South moment when I was working at a library in a large Southern city and a woman came in who was trying to source a poem from a couple of lines--not an unusual request, as the Web had not at that point made doing so ridiculously easy--and proceeded to recite some doggerel that featured the word "pickaninny" prominently. It wasn't so much that she seemed to approve of such stuff (although she didn't exactly seem to disapprove of it, either) as that she thought that I, born in the same year that LBJ's Civil Rights Act was passed and speaking with an Upper Midwest accent, would be familiar with it as well.

I think that that desire for a mammy for the children reflects the ideal of white Southern womanhood: that a proper Southern lady retains her girlish figure forever, no more affected by pregnancy and childbirth than she would be if the babies really were brought by storks. Just as the Magic Negro of the movies imparts his hard-earned wisdom to the white hero so that the hero doesn't have to go to the trouble of obtaining it himself, the mammy gets to gain the weight, provide the affection, and (at least in antebellum days) even breastfeed the children. I believe that if in vitro fertilization had been available two centuries ago, few planters' wives would have bothered with the inconvenience and indignity of pregnancy.

Bill

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Rosie Powell

I also have mixed feelings about "GONE WITH THE WIND" . . . and I'm a minority woman. On one hand, it is a pretty damn good movie, even though "STAGECOACH" (a movie in which the characters endure an attack by Apaches) is my favorite 1939 film. Yes, I found the racism offensive. But I also found the sexism and the class bigotry (in its portrayal of Jonas Wilkerson and Emmy Slattery) offensive as well.

I'm not sure if I could completely agree with your comments about Rhett Butler. Yes, he spent most of the movie harboring contempt toward those who worshipped the "Old South". But his regard for Melanie Wilkes and his comments near the end of the movie made me wondering if he had picked up the worshipping the past vibe, as well.

Speaking of Butterfly McQueen as Prissy, there is a scene in the film's first half in which Scarlett verbally tears into Prissy for failing to get a doctor for Melanie. Once Scarlett's back was turn, Prissy responded with a gesture that was downright unpleasant and it produced a smile on my face.

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